How to Write Historical Fiction

For those who don’t know, I am currently writing – and reading – historical fiction. To be specific, I’m currently writing in the historical fiction sub-genre of historical fantasy, retro-futuristic science fiction, or dieselpunk.

One of the key elements of writing historical fiction and its various relatives is, of course, research. And as any writer knows, the very act of doing research can often inspire other ideas – which can be great if you’re just at the start of putting together a book, but can also derail you from a good work in progress.

But anyway, let’s say that you’re wanting to try out the historical fiction genre. Where do you begin? As with most any writing, I believe good historical fiction writing comes from reading books in that genre. Also, most historical fiction writers have a love of history – whether it be a love of a certain place or time in history, or a broader love of anything that is old. So if you love history, how do you start writing a fictional story? Continue reading

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The Value of a Writing Retreat

A few weeks ago I took a four-day writing retreat with the members of my monthly writing critique group. Last year we’d decided to try a retreat, and loved it so much that we did it again this year.

We booked a 6-bedroom cabin at a retreat center in a nearby town, and spent four days just writing. Yes, we did other things, too – went for walks or a swim, got together for meals and a movie every evening, and chatted here and there about our writing projects. We all get along really well, and even though we’re all writing different things in different genres, we enjoy talking about writing and even helping one another with brainstorming ideas.

A scenic view near our writing cabin.

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Small Town Writing

Two years ago I made a huge change in my life: I left my hometown (the only city I’d ever lived in) and moved clear across the country to a small town that I’d never even visited before.

I haven’t regretted the move at all. Even so, after two full years now, I’m still finding myself periodically marveling at the differences between the big city east coast life I grew up with, and the small-town north-west life I live now.

It’s great fodder for stories, for sure. Even though my current WIP does not take place in a small rural town, I’m filing away my observations for potential future writing use. And now, I’m sharing these little observations with you! So if you’ve never lived in a small rural town, then feel free to take some of these tidbits and use them to inspire your own writing!

A Town of “The”

My town is small enough that it’s a town where many things are “the.” As in, “the post office,” “the Chinese restaurant,” and “the gas station.” It used to be a town of “the traffic light,” but then the light was removed. There is only one other traffic light in the entire county, just past the north edge of town; so my town is officially now a no-light town. Continue reading

Overcoming Writer’s Block

I don’t believe in writer’s block. Yes, I believe that writers can get stuck, frustrated with, disillusioned by, and tired of their writing projects. I believe this because I’ve experienced all of these things.

However, “writer’s block” to me sounds permanent and insurmountable. And it is most certainly neither of these. So whether you’re experiencing writer’s block, writer’s pause, frustration with your characters, or uninspired by your plot, there is a way out. Here are three tips that I use when I get stuck.

Go for a Walk

Or a run, or a swim, or vacuum your house, or work in the garden. In other words, do something besides sitting there staring at the blank page. Physical movement helps—it gets blood flowing, and distracts you. And if you haven’t cleaned in a while, well, then you’re killing two birds with one stone. Double your productivity! But seriously, I do some of my best thinking while I’m doing physical tasks that require very little conscious thought, such as vacuuming or talking a long walk. Continue reading

When the Movie is Better than the Book, Part 2

As a writer of books, I often feel guilty when I like a film adaptation better than the book that inspired it. I feel sort of like a traitor to my craft, as it were. But ultimately, I like a good story—and sometimes, the movie tells a better story than the book. In this post, I explained in detail why I think that the 1939 movie The Wizard of Oz told a better story than Baum’s original classic book.

Here is a list of some other movies that I think are better than their original book inspirations. In most of these cases, I feel that the movie version told a more cohesive story—whether it be fewer extraneous sub-plots, better pacing, fewer minor characters, or just plain easier to follow. In some cases, the movie ending was more positive or satisfying than the book ending, which is something I’m partial to. Continue reading